On Wednesday, October 15, 2014 I was formally...and through contact improvisation...intimately introduced to Pilobolus and one of its collaborators. Pilobolus hails as a Connecticut Company of choreographers and dancer-athletes committed to crafting 3 original works a year. An impressive total for any full-time company that provides such detailed work to please an audiences' eye. Pilobolus shares their kinesthetic findings with the public through workshops and master classes that have the power to unite people while arousing a higher creative collective consciousness.
Thanks to our partnership with the Tilles Center, I was fortunate to have newly retired Pilobolus dancer and teaching artist Matt Del Rosario lead me and my Long Island High School for the Arts students in a master class for the day. Through a series of structured and contact improvisations Del Rosario turned the key that opened eyes, fired-up internal energies which stimulated thoughts and brought us to new creative heights. We investigated our potential to shift, share and bare each other's weight through a mindful practice. This enriching master class was our precursor to Pilobolus' Friday, October 17th performance at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post.
Pilobolus shared beauty, joy, skill and innovation in dance and movement with its very full Tilles Center house. These dancer-athletes became magicians, narrated by Penn & Teller - of course we only hear the voice of one from the famous duo. The performers escaped various suggestive bondage-like puzzles that involved duct-tape, high heels, tall metal poles, leather zipper g-strings and a duffle bag. I was intrigued as the activities on stage were compared to Houdini's great feats. Yet, I found myself embarrassed and shrinking in my seat as I thought about my underage students, my colleagues and their young children sitting behind. One dancer, in her blouse and skirt, had her arms and separated ankles taped to chair limbs prior to having the plastic bag fastened around her neck. I gasped as I watched the bag inflate and deflate to reveal the contours of her face. Did I prep my students well enough? Did I provide enough warning for their parents and small children in attendance? Yes, I mentioned brief male rear nudity in a letter home. Yes, I gave them articles to read, videos to watch, class forums for discussion and a master class with a Pilobolus guest artist. But I wasn't sure how my invited audience was going to respond to this risque piece.
Amidst all this excitement and panic, I questioned...is this dance?????
My partner and I began to crunch our brows and whisper “what is dance?” Could this be better classified as performance art? What was the artistic intent? The intermittent short videos that played as the props and sets where changed were....films. The projection screen, plexiglass, realtime cameras, music, and movements in “All Is Not Lost” were...multimedia. The newly created show opener “On The Nature of Things” was...dance.
Yes, back to the dance. “On The Nature of Things” was a sculptural dance performed by a trio on a narrow pedestal to the luxurious sounds of Vivaldi's sopranos. The dancers seamlessly shifted, weightlessly lifted and stunningly shaped their bodies into satisfying tableaus reminiscent of ancient Greek and Roman museum pieces. I floated through the performance with timeless and endless sensations as I watched Pilobolus' collaborative and intricate movements. Although the pieces were lengthy, some endings seems abrupt and left me on the edge of almost...completion.
The show was truly a visual feast! There isn't a prerequisite to see Pilobolus. Maybe a brief warning on the moderate nudity and suggestive material would be helpful. Yet, the abundance of the apparent body, its usage, and visibility eventually desensitizes any initial shock of nudity. Maybe Pilobolus is on to something? Maybe there is a subliminal message on censorship that can encourage people to find beauty in all that is natural? Maybe Pilobolus, while touring Europe, has taken back to the States - a healthy - and openly communicative view on the body, sexuality and again, that which is natural? Either way, Pilobolus shares their knowledge of physics, biology, movement, athleticism, entertainment and – dance.